The Beautiful South

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The Beautiful South
Paul Heaton w mic Beautiful South concert.jpg
The Beautiful South in concert.
Background information
Origin Hull, England
Genres Alternative rock, pop rock
Years active 1988–2007
Labels Universal, Go! Discs, Ark 21, Mercury, Sony, Elektra
Associated acts The South
The Housemartins
Past members Paul Heaton
Dave Rotheray
Dave Hemingway
Sean Welch
Dave Stead
Briana Corrigan
Jacqui Abbott
Alison Wheeler

The Beautiful South was an English pop/rock group formed in 1988 by two former members of the Hull group the Housemartins, Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway, both of whom performed lead and backing vocals. Other members throughout the band's tenure were former Housemartins roadie Sean Welch (bass), Dave Stead (drums) and Dave Rotheray (guitar). After the band's first album (recorded as a quintet), they were joined by a succession of female vocalists, all of whom performed lead and backing vocals alongside Heaton and Hemingway – Briana Corrigan for albums two and three, followed by Jacqui Abbott for the fourth through seventh albums, and finally Alison Wheeler for the final three Beautiful South albums.

The group broke up in January 2007, claiming the split was due to "musical similarities",[1] having sold around 15 million records worldwide.[2] In January 2009, it was announced that the former members Dave Hemingway, Alison Wheeler, and Dave Stead would reform under the name "New Beautiful South" which was later changed to "The South".[3] Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott reunited as a duo in 2013, touring and recording new material.


Paul Heaton and David Hemingway had initially come to attention as (respectively) the lead singer and "singing drummer" of the successful Hull jangle pop band The Housemartins, who had scored seven UK Top 40 singles and two Top 10 albums between 1986 and 1988. The band were known for blending overt socialist politics and a form of Christianity, having baited the British monarchy, the building industry and South African apartheid in their songs as well as including gospel elements in their music. The Housemartins often claimed to have set a fixed lifespan for themselves, and the members duly brought the band to an end in 1988 at the height of its success. Heaton and Hemingway immediately began work on setting up a new band, naming it "The Beautiful South" as a sarcastic comment on their staunch Northern roots.

The third initial bandmember was Dave Rotheray, a songwriting guitarist who'd previously played with Hemingway in two other Hull bands, The Newpolitans and The Velvetones. At the time Rotheray was studying for a PhD at the University of Hull and living on Grafton Street, where Heaton also lived. Rotheray and Heaton became the songwriting team for The Beautiful South, which was conceived as a quintet with Heaton and Hemingway as the two lead singers. The core band was completed by David Stead (ex-Luddites/Vicious Circle) on drums and former Housemartins roadie Sean Welch on bass guitar. Also important to the band's sound was studio keyboard player Damon Butcher - though never an official member of the group, he would end up playing virtually all the piano and keyboard parts on the band's albums.

The band's first album Welcome to the Beautiful South was released in 1989 and promptly produced a Number 2 UK singles chart hit, "Song For Whoever". With the follow-up single "You Keep It All In" reaching number 8 and "I'll Sail This Ship Alone" reaching number 31, the band were soon set to equal or surpass the success of The Housemartins, while the songwriting built on and expanded the trenchant social critiques which the previous band had been known for (topics included nationalism, domestic violence, football hooliganism and the self-serving industry of love songs, and the album's disturbing cover art also drew attention). Northern Irish singer Briana Corrigan was featured as a background vocalist on the album. Her contributions proved so successful that she was soon promoted to full membership status.

In 1990, The Beautiful South released their second album, Choke. Two singles - "My Book" and "Let Love Speak Up Itself" - charted outside the Top 40, but the album also provided the band's only Number 1 hit, a Hemingway/Corrigan duet called "A Little Time". The video - featuring the aftermath of a domestic fight - won the 1991 BRIT Award for Best Video.[4]

The band's third album 0898 Beautiful South followed in 1992. It provided another Top 20 hit in the shape of "Bell Bottomed Tear" as well as two further Top 30 hits, "Old Red Eyes Is Back" and "We Are Each Other", although a fourth single "36D" only placed in the Top 50. "We Are Each Other" also became the band's biggest hit in the United States, peaking at #10 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1992.[5]

Both Choke and 0898 Beautiful South illustrated the growing fullness of the band's sound. Both featured Pete Thoms and Gary Barnacle as regular contributors on brass and woodwind, and also featured Corrigan as lead vocalist on several tracks. Her contribution helped to characterise the bittersweet kitchen sink dramas played out in the band's often barbed songs and allowed Heaton and Rotheray to explore and express female perspectives in their songwriting. However, the latter approach had mixed success, demonstrated later in 1992 when Corrigan chose to leave the band to pursue a solo career. Although her decision was partly prompted by a desire to record and promote her own material (which was not getting exposure within The Beautiful South), she had also had ethical disagreements over some of Heaton's lyrics, most notably "Mini-correct", "Worthless Lie" and the 0898 Beautiful South single "36D", which criticised the British glamour industry via scathing comments about glamour models. Five years later, Hemingway would admit "we all agree that we should have targeted the media as sexist instead of blaming the girls for taking off their tops".[6][7][8]

In 1994, St Helens supermarket shelf-stacker Jacqui Abbott was brought on board to fill in as the new third lead vocalist for the band. Heaton had heard her sing at an after-show party in St Helens and remembered her vocal talents. Heaton referred to her as "the lass from the glass" – a reference to the Pilkington factory in St Helens. Abbott's first album with the band was Miaow in 1994. Hits included "Good as Gold (Stupid as Mud)" and a cover of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'", previously popularised by Harry Nilsson.

November 1994 saw the release of Carry on up the Charts, a "best of" compilation consisting of the singles to date plus new track "One Last Love Song". Released at a time when the group's album sales had been waning, the album was a huge commercial success.[9] It secured the Christmas number one spot on the charts and became the second best selling album of the year. In 1995, the band was one of the support acts for R.E.M. on the British leg of their world tour. On this tour the band played an extra night when Oasis pulled out of their Huddersfield appearance. The Beautiful South played "Some Might Say" and dedicated it to any Oasis fans at the gig.

The 1996 album Blue Is the Colour sold over a million copies and featured hit singles "Rotterdam" and "Don't Marry Her". The album demonstrated the band's gradual shift towards a country music sound, and was well received by the public and on BBC and commercial radio.[citation needed] In 1997 the Beautiful South headlined stadium concerts for the first and last time, in Huddersfield and at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London. Support for the Huddersfield concert was provided by Cast.[citation needed]

The album Quench (1998) was released with similar commercial success, again reaching number one in the UK album charts. "Perfect 10", the first single to be released from the album also provided the band with uncharacteristic singles chart success. The album is also notable for being more uptempo and being the first on which Heaton and Hemingway's former Housemartins colleague Norman Cook was used in a consultancy role.[10]

Although 2000's Painting It Red (2000) made number two in the UK charts, the album suffered promotion and touring difficulties, and a substantial number of the CDs were faulty. Jacqui Abbott left the band in the same year, discouraged by the pressures of touring and needing to concentrate on looking after her son, who had just been diagnosed with autism.[11][12][13] After completing their tour obligations, the band marked time with a second greatest-hits album (Solid Bronze) in 2001, and took time time off to refresh themselves. Heaton embarked on a solo career under the Biscuit Boy (a.k.a. Crakerman)alias[14] and released the Fat Chance album in 2001. Although critically acclaimed, the album did not sell well and was reissued under Heaton's own name the following year. Teaming up with Sam Brown, Dave Rotheray formed the folk-pop band Homespun, whose eponymous debut album was released in 2003.

The Beautiful South regrouped in 2003, with new recruit Alison Wheeler taking on the role of female singer. This lineup recorded Gaze in 2003, following it with 2004's Golddiggas, Headnodders and Pholk Songs, an album of unusually arranged cover tunes including "Livin' Thing", "You're The One That I Want", "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and "I'm Stone in Love With You". One track from the album, "This Old Skin", was presented as a cover of a song by an obscure band called The Heppelbaums; it was later revealed to be an original Heaton/Rotheray composition. Rotheray would release a second Homespun album, Effortless Cool, in 2005.

The final Beautiful South album Superbi was released on 15 May 2006. It was recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios, a farm in Bakewell and at producer Ian Stanley's studio in Enniskerry, County Wicklow. It was mixed by Bill Price (Sex Pistols, Clash, Guns N' Roses). Paul Heaton's hand is recognisable in quirky song titles such as "The Rose of My Cologne", "The Cat Loves The Mouse" and "Never Lost A Chicken to a Fox". The first single, "Manchester", started off as a poem – "If rain makes Britain great, then Manchester is greater" – 'a sodden tribute' to the city in which he now lives, says Heaton.

After a band meeting on 30 January 2007, they decided to split.[1] They released a statement on 31 January 2007, in which they joked their reasons for splitting were "musical similarities" – an ironic reference to "musical differences" which are often cited as the reason for a band's split. "The band would like to thank everyone for their 19 wonderful years in music," the statement also said.

In May 2007 the band's music was used in a jukebox musical entitled The Slide (book by Adrian Davis).[citation needed] It was premiered at the Phoenix Theatre, Swindon.


Subsequent solo and group work by various members[edit]

Dave Hemingway was the first former Beautiful South member to release new material. Around the time of the band's split in 2007, he released a solo album called Hello Cruel World,

David Rotheray continued his work with Homespun for another year, before splitting the band in 2008 to pursue a solo career. His first solo album, The Life of Birds, was released in 2010.

Paul Heaton released two further solo albums (2008's The Cross Eyed Rambler and 2010's Acid Country). In 2013, Heaton reunited with The Beautiful South's second female singer Jacqui Abbott: the duo released their debut album What Have We Become on 12 May 2014. On working with Abbott once again, Heaton said: "Working with Jacqui again was like going into your garage and discovering a beautiful, covered up Rolls Royce that hadn't been started in years. Jacqui is one of the best singers I've worked with and is also part of my past. It was only a matter of time before I asked her."[15] In June 2014, the pair visited Belfast's Limelight to showcase their live show.[16]

The South (a.k.a. "The New Beautiful South")[edit]

The South at Guilfest 2012

In 2008, Dave Hemingway, Dave Stead and Alison Wheeler reunited as The New Beautiful South, a nine-piece band also featuring three longtime band associates and live members (keyboard player Damon Butcher, live horn players Gaz Birtles and Tony Robinson) plus three brand new members. In 2010, the band changed its name to The South.

The current lineup of The South is Hemingway, Wheeler, Stead, Butcher, Birtles, Robinson, Phil Barton (guitar), Steve Nutter (bass guitar), Dave Anderson (drums), Karl Brown (percussion) and Debbie Johnston (backing vocals).[17] The band continues to perform Beautiful South songs in concert and to write and release new material.[18] The debut South album, Sweet Refrains, was recorded at CowShed Studios in London during June and July 2012.




Non-LP/CD and ECD Single Releases[edit]

The Beautiful South released a few singles throughout their career that were not on the official albums but were later released on compilations. All were written by Paul Heaton and Dave Rotheray unless noted.[19]

"One Last Love Song" (released October 24, 1994)



  • "One Last Love Song" [3:35]
  • "Mr. Obsession" [3:34]
  • "You're Only Jealous" [2:47]

(* also released as a 7" vinyl single)

"Dream A Little Dream" (July 1995, CD only)

(*Recorded for the movie French Kiss. It was re-used in the film The Devil Wears Prada.

"Pretenders To The Throne" (November 1995, CD only)

  • "Pretenders To The Throne" [3:15]
  • "Virgin" [3:54]
  • "A Long Day In The Field" [3:13]

"The Root of All Evil" (November 5, 2001, CD only)


  • "The Root Of All Evil" [2:40]
  • "Free For All" [3:57]
  • "Perfect 10 (music video)


  • "The Root Of All Evil" [2:40]
  • "Chicken Wings" (Original Version) [4:31]
  • "Rotterdam (music video)

B-Sides, EP-only, and Foreign Edition Bonus Tracks[edit]

There are almost eighty additional single B-side, EP-only and Foreign Edition Bonus tracks that have never been compiled on album or compact disc. Although some are cover versions, remixes, demos and either live or acoustic versions of songs previously released, most are stand-alone compositions.[19] The only release to feature all these tracks was an unofficial seven-disc set, "Good As Gold: The $600 Singles Collection".[20]


THE PUMPKIN (1992) Contains the band's first eight "music promos" and footage (*) from their March 1990 American tour.[21]

  • 2. "Woman In The Wall"*
  • 6. "Have You Ever Been Away"*
  • 8. "My Book"
  • 10. "Let Love Speak Up Itself"
  • 12. "We Are Each Other"

Much Later with...THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH (1997) Full length version of the "Later...with Jools Holland Special." First broadcast March 21st, 1997 on BBC2 (a promotional version was also released)

  • 1. "We Are Each Other"
  • 12. "You've Done Nothing Wrong" – featuring Iris Dement
  • 17. "Hold Onto What?"


  • The Beautiful South: Munch – Our Hits (2003)
  • Live In The Forest (2005)


  1. ^ a b "Pop group Beautiful South split". BBC. 31 January 2007. 
  2. ^ "History – from The Housemartins to The Beautiful South to The South". The South. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Beautiful South re-form". BBC News. 12 February 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  4. ^ "The Beautiful South". 2014-02-19. Retrieved 2014-03-30. 
  5. ^ The Beautiful South. "The Beautiful South — Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  6. ^ "Contemporary Musicians, Volume 19". 1 September 1997. Retrieved 26 July 2007. 
  7. ^ "The Beautiful South – the Band". BBC. 29 November 2001. Retrieved 26 July 2007. 
  8. ^ "A Little Time". Retrieved 26 July 2007. 
  9. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine (1995-10-09). "Carry on Up the Charts: The Best of the Beautiful South - The Beautiful South". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  10. ^ "The Beautiful South". BBC News. 9 October 1998. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "It's All Two Beautiful". NME.COM. 2000-11-23. Archived from the original on 2008-08-14. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  12. ^ "Beautiful South - The Beautiful South: London Brixton Academy - Live Reviews - NME.COM". 2000-12-14. Archived from the original on 2008-08-14. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  13. ^ "Jacqui Abbott interviewed by Allan Johnson Radio 4 2nd June 2011". 2011-06-02. 
  14. ^ "Paul Heaton puts band on hold". BBC News. 16 August 2001. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  15. ^ Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, Leeds O2 Academy, May 24; Hull City Hall, May 31
  16. ^ Live Gig Review of Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott in Belfast
  17. ^ "Beautiful South re-form". BBC News. 12 February 2009. 
  18. ^ "We're Still Beautiful". The South. Retrieved 3 December 2012. 
  19. ^ a b "The Beautiful South Discography". Retrieved 2014-10-30. 
  20. ^ ""Good As Gold: The $600 Singles Collection"". Retrieved 2014-12-19. 
  21. ^ "The Beautiful South - Videos". Retrieved 2014-11-21. 

External links[edit]